The producer is one of the most crucial yet anonymous figures in all of music. Every other week, with Beat Construction, an extension of our column in the magazine, we aim to illuminate the role producers are playing in creating some of our favorite music. This week we talk to 23-year-old DJ Spinz, the DJ turned producer behind Ca$h Out's anthemic "Cashin Out" as well as recent hits for Waka Flocka Flame, Gucci Mane and Rich Kidz.
So when you made "Cashin Out" did you think it was going to become as big as it became? I had intended it to be a big record or whatever, I felt special about it but to actually see it happen in real life is crazy.
How'd you link up with Ca$h Out in the first place? I had been knowing his CEO D, we had done business with him before. He had an artist previously named J Money. And I did a record with Ca$h Out actually about a year before "Cashin Out," called "Flex." I was a DJ in the clubs and he would come around, bringing his records and stuff and I knew him from just coming there. D was like, "we need a single." We got in and the first record we made was "Cashin Out."
Was he the artist you had in mind when you first made that beat? Naw… actually I had started on it the night before or maybe two nights before. I was running through some beats and some concepts [for Ca$h Out] and I skipped to the next one kinda quick and he was like "naw bring that one back, I got something for it" and he started rapping the beginning of the hook to me. So I was like, That's dope! I went back in and fitted it around what he was saying and, shit, we came up with a classic.
Going back a little further, how'd you first get into making music? Well I had been a DJ since I was 14. I started radio when I was 16. I moved to college in '07 or '08 and I had been DJing for probably five or six years and I just wanted to try something new. "I've been DJing for a while, let me just try to make some beats." So I did that all the way up until now. I stuck with it. I had some times when I wanted to quit or whatever but I kept with it and it worked out.
How did you fall into DJing at 14 years old?! Well, my grandma and my uncle, they ran a supper club back in my hometown of Augusta so I grew up kinda in the club. I knew the DJ there since I was maybe three or four. He wasn't like a real DJ, a turntablist or anything like that, but it sparked the interest. I always [saw him] control the crowd and run the party. So in growing up, in middle school, I just started taking to DJing. The [local] radio station would DJ at the high school football games. I'd go out there and just show interest and the program director would actually let me get on during some commercial breaks. I did that for maybe about a year and then one day he decided to give me a thirty minute block on the air. He did that and, shit, that was history. He gave me a radio show and I did that from the time I was 16 to the time I moved away from Augusta when I was 18.
How do you think a DJing background informs your beatmaking? Do you think you're better equipped for it? Well DJs obviously have to have an understanding of music, or they're supposed to anyway. Having that element it allows me to have a different view when I'm making beats. I know what the crowd is gonna want to hear so I can implement that into my production as opposed to where another producer might [have to] be more creative or willing to try different things, things that they might not know will go over [in the club]. I've been the club for years so I understand what people move to.
What type of gear are you working with? My main workstation is Logic Pro and then I use an MPC.
Did you have any musical training or are you self-taught? I play keys or whatever. As far as going to school for it, I took piano lessons for about a year but I've been playing for as long as I've been making beats and I can pretty much play anything out here. Every time I make a beat I just sit in and pour my thoughts out.
What else have you been working on recently? I got the new Gucci joint featuring Fab and 8Ball, "Make No Sense." It just came out on his new mixtape, I'm Up. That's the single they're going with for the radio. I got a new record with Waka on his album called "Rooster In My Rari." Rich Kidz just got a deal off a record I did for them that's buzzing down here called "Nun Else 2 Do." Man, I'm just working, man. I just came off the road with Travis Porter, we're doing shows. I'm continuing to move and work with young talent and just do what I've been doing.
Are you out there looking for new talent a lot? Always. I'm a mixtape DJ. I've been doing mixtapes for five or six years. Me and my partner Pretty Boy Tank, probably our most successful mixtape [series] has been Space Invaders. 2 Chainz and Future hosted it before they blew up. Damn near everybody came through. Rich Kidz, Travis Porter, J Money, the list goes on. Every young talent to come out of Atlanta has pretty much been harvested off our mixtapes. We're constantly looking to see who has the next hot song or who's gonna be the next to come out of here.
What do you look for specifically in an artist? Uniqueness, actually. There's a lot of people out here who can make songs that sound like [someone else], but what really separates an artist is that element they have of themselves. Their character, where you can hear their record and be like "I know that's such and such" instead of "who is that?" or "he sounds like whoever." Every now and then there's an artist who comes along who can switch the game and move it along. Right now I think it's 2 Chainz. He was Tity Boi a year ago! It's crazy.
What do you think it is about Atlanta that it's always breeding talent like that? Atlanta's a melting pot. It's a lot of cultures and it's really like the black hub of entertainment right now. I've been a lot of places in America, I've even been outside of the country, but there's no place like Atlanta when it comes to music. I don't think any other city has come close. New York had their era, the West Coast is legendary, but in Atlanta there's always some new music that everybody in the world likes. There's always something bubbling and brewing.